It is the common practice for many avid travel bloggers to focus on and highlight the amazing, unique and adventurous experiences they seek out while abroad. This is understandable, they make for great stories. The unique and fantastic adventures like diving with whale sharks, watching the sunrise from one of the peaks in the Cordillera Blanca, or hiking to Mach Picchu on the Camino Inca.
These are certainly moving and awe-inspiring tales. They deserve to be told. These are the moments that inspire others to get a pack, stuff it way too full, buy a ticket and take the plunge. However, these hallowed and magical moments are rare. Wait, check that, not really rare, for any traveller will experience many of them. However, when you look at the daily life of a traveller, they are few and far between. There are so many other notable moments. While Machu Picchu may be the reason you go to Peru, the laid back lifestyle and the ridiculously fresh fruit may be the reason you stay.
It is the little things that both cause the most discomfort (carrying around your own toilet paper) and bring the most joy (sipping freshly bended juice while walking the streets of Cusco.)
On to my ordinary adventure
I have been looking for the chance to get a straight razor shave since before I could sustain a beard. Perhaps the inception of this desire was caused by my viewing of “Gangs of New York” when I was in high school. The scene when “Priest” Vallon, played by Liam Neeson shaves before the opening battle scene. He then hands the blade to his son who begins to wipe the blade clean, but stops his hand saying, “the blood stays on the blade.” For some reason the gravity of this scene inspired a desire to experience a straight razor shave. And luckily for me, none of my blood ever touched the blade.
The desire to find this experience came about a year after I saw that article in Blue Magazine which inspired the dream of visiting Machu Picchu, you can read more about that here…
…it is a 4 part post with lots of photos for your viewing pleasure.
Since both of these dreams were inspired around the same time, and so long ago, it is fitting that I would fulfill them both on the same trip.
My first international haircut was in Salta Argentina by a guy who was so fast I could have sworn he had scissors in both hands. he didn’t even use clippers, just scissors for a cut that was pretty short. An artist indeed, he even had trophies on his walls, Barber trophies. I asked for a shave, but didn’t know enough spanish at the time, so i couldn’t get the straight razor shave here. So my face would have to wait for that immaculate feeling, I had only dreamt about.
A little more than a year later, on the later stages of my trip to Peru and what would turn out to be Bolivia, another opportunity arose. A friend of mine had the idea to get mustaches for the upcoming trip to Bolivia and the last few days of Movember. We found a place a few streets from Avenida del Sol and had it done.
My beard was getting long and itchy anyways, and though I have never been a mustache man, I figured I might as well get one where I knew very few people. It would be less embarrassing that way.
The feeling was amazing. I have never had a shave that was so close and smooth. The blade feels like a massage and the shaving cream is incredibly soothing. I had expected it be mildly painful, but it was more of a soft caress. At the end the Peruvian barber rubbed my face with a moisturizing bar of…something and there was also a hot towel involved.
A week later I got the chance again in La Paz, Bolivia. There is a much smaller tourist to local ratio in La Paz and I was able to find a nice off the path Peluqueria for a 10 boliviano mustache ridding shave. After a week, I couldn’t stand looking at myself without cringing and I also wanted an excuse to get another straight razor shave before my trip was over. There are some differences between the one I found in La Paz and the one in Bolivia. Mainly it was how the skin was handled after the shave. In La Paz, the peluquero rubbed my face with alcohol afterwards to sanitize it. There was no hot towel, but he did rub my face with lotion which was an interesting experience.
It was a fine shave, and while the loss of mustache may have saddened a few patrons at the Adventure Brew Hostal, where I was bar tending, its absence made it a lot easier to look in the mirror.
It is this kind of daily difference that makes life exciting while abroad. Each locale will offer its own unique eccentricities and variations on the common experience. Like the San Pedro Market in Cusco, with everything including the butchers under one giant tent, to the markets in La Paz in the middle of the street, there is always a new way to experience daily life.
Note on Straight Razor Shaves
Unfortunately, for the majority of the last ten years, most places in the United States that I searched had lost the art of the straight razor shave at the barber. It is risky and can be dangerous. Recently, I discovered that there is a surge, a renaissance of sorts, for this time honored tradition. I discovered quite a few places in Portland that are bringing it back.
The Modern Man Barbershop – themodernmanpdx.com
Hair M hairmgrooming.com -includes a face massage
And check out this post from “The Art of Manliness,” blog that waxes philosophical and photographic on the experience.
A few Questions for the readers.
What random everyday things were you excited and amazed by while you were or are abroad?
What things are you freaked out by?
Have there been any daily activities that surprised you with there eccentricity lately?
Any Specific info on straight razor shaves in the U.S.A., Europe, South America or anywhere?
Any exciting adventures on the horizon?